The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton made a splash when it was published in hardcover last year and I remember quickly grabbing it to devour. I just loved it. And now that it's in paperback, it's climbing up the bestseller lists and is the current Target Bookmarked Book Club Pick for the summer as well as a Borders book club selection. Below Meg talks about how book clubs turned someone not that prone to joining group activities (I can relate) into someone who now seeks this type of companionship out wherever she goes! Meg is available to call in to reading groups, and has a wonderful section on her website with resources for book clubs. You can read what book groups are saying about the Wednesday Sisters and you can contact her to join your group by phone. I also have a book for giveaway! Simply tell us in the comments why you love your book club. I'll pick one person from all entries received by midnight Wednesday July 29th (US and Canada only please).
Growing up, I wasn’t much of a joiner. Yes, I joined Brownies, but only because my mom led the troupe. In middle school, I joined the Snowflake Ski Club with my friend Sheryl Cohen, but before the second group lesson had ended, we’d set off on our own. Join a sorority in college? I only have brothers; I couldn’t imagine living only with girls. Nor did my stint in a law school study group last beyond a meeting or two. I studied on my own. I ran alone. Yes, there was a church youth group in high school, but to be honest that was more about the boys than the religion. So how is it that I now find myself a member of not just one, but rather three, in-person book groups, and visiting scores of other groups in person and by phone for author chats?
The first literary groups I joined were writing groups, not reading ones. I left one behind in Baltimore when I moved to Nashville, where I happily leapt in again with both keyboarding hands. The final version of the Nashville Four—four writers who came together with only a single travel piece published among us—now counts seven books published or being written under contract, as well as numerous stories, essays, articles and poems in print. Let’s just say that group worked together pretty well.
Perhaps having to leave them behind is what sent me looking for literary companionship when we once again moved, this time to Palo Alto, California. I knew I would still turn to the Nashville Four for writing critique (we now operate by long-distance), but how else to find literary friends? My solution was the fiction book group at my local independent bookstore, Kepler’s—which turns out to be an amazing and diverse collection of readers that I was sure was a rare, rare thing.
Then a neighborhood group formed, and how could I resist? And Books Inc., another local independent, started a group in their gorgeous new store… Two new groups as wonderful as the Kepler’s fiction group. Three rare, rare groups?
Somewhere along the way, I started publishing novels myself, and visiting book groups as an author. One of the first groups I visited, for my first novel, turned out to be a roomful of English PhDs—enough to make this History and Psychology major lawyer who took no English courses beyond the required Freshman Great Books class shiver in her cliché boots. But the discussion was absolutely fabulous, and if anyone didn’t love the book, they gave no hint. A fourth rare, rare group?
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to spend an hour or an evening visiting groups all over the country in person or by telephone, to discuss the novels I’ve written, most recently The Wednesday Sisters. The groups vary in every way imaginable. Big or intimate. In person or online. Groups nearly as old as I am, and ones that have just formed. One group, which I like to call "my first blind date," was a collection of readers that had connected online and were meeting together in person for the first time, to discuss The Wednesday Sisters. I was sure they would be bizarre and dysfunctional, and I hesitated to go, but … A—were they the fourty-third group I’d visited?—rare, rare group.
Despite their diversity, all the groups I’ve visited share in common intelligent conversation, laughter, and an openness to sharing personal stories and examining everything life blows our way. It never ceases to amaze me how very many well-read and thoughtful people there are in this world in which, I’m told, fewer and fewer people read at all. Rare, rare groups in Kansas and Minnesota, Texas, New Jersey, Florida and, yesterday, Chatanooga, Tennessee.
There is one serious difference between the groups I visit and the ones to which I belong: in my own groups, there is literally never a book that someone doesn’t criticize. Funny that, I always think: No one hates The Wednesday Sisters? Or everyone is too nice to tell an author to her face what they really think about the book. Which is why I always limit my book group visits to an hour, so the very nice members have time to share what they really think about the book.
These days, not a week goes by when I don’t spend time with a book group. Some weeks, not a day goes by. Perhaps I need to consider a twelve-step program? My name is Meg Waite Clayton and I’m a book group addict. There it is. But in a life in which there are so many demands on our time, where some things that aren’t scheduled simply don’t get done, it’s nice to have a little friendship and a few wonderful books built into the routine, an excuse to drop everything once a month to visit with friends over something we all love.